In March 1980, Reliance mushroomed advertising agency Mudra primarily to service its own communication needs. Subsequently, besides servicing Reliance, Mudra also started pitching for other accounts. It won Vimal and then Rasna and gradually Mudra which started with 15 employees became a large player in the advertising industry with clients across categories. Recall a similar a global example: Lee Byung-Chul, Korean entrepreneur and founder of Samsung Group, launched Cheil Communications in 1973, primarily to conduct surveys that would help Samsung grow its presence in Korea. Gradually Cheil became Cheil Worldwide, an advertising agency with offices across the globe.
Cut to 2020: Highly placed sources in Reliance tell us that the Ambani family, especially the younger generation, wants to repeat history and re-create the “Mudra magic”. It turns out, Reliance has earmarked a budget to fund the growth of an in-house advertising agency that will go out and service other clients too. "The mandate is to function independently as any other creative advertising agency would," says a source in the company.
To this end, Reliance will formally roll out an ad agency called Jio Creative Labs; the team will service Reliance Jio, and will also pitch for business from other brands in the market. Interestingly, the team will also need to pitch for business from within the Reliance stable, we learn. "It is not that we will automatically get all the Jio or other Reliance companies' advertising work. After a point in time, we will have to pitch for Jio work too and compete with other established agencies," says a source in Jio Creative Labs, in conversation with afaqs!.
This is something Jio Studios used to do under the leadership of Aditya Bhat. But there is another Jio Studios owned by Reliance which functions under the leadership of president of the Chairman's Office, Media & Entertainment, Reliance Industries, Jyoti Deshpande and looks after content acquisition and creation. "To avoid the confusion and completely seperate itself from the advertising business Reliance is launching Jio Creative Labs," adds a source in the company. Aditya Bhat will now head Jio Creative Labs.
If sources are to be believed then Reliance has already poached creative minds from Ogilvy, Indigo Consulting, Isobar and other agencies. "Look, we already have a creative team called Jio Studios, that has been looking after advertising duties, among other things. We have now spotted the gaps and got people from outside to fill them. Jio Creative Lab is a mix of people branching out of Jio Studios and some joining from the outside," adds a senior executive at Jio Creative Labs.
Sources in the company add that Jio Creative Labs has started its operations in beta mode. A formal launch will be made soon. The creative unit has already executed campaigns for brands like Navratna Tel, Saint Gobain Gyproc, ICICI Bank and Tata Yodha. "The campaigns were conceptualised, designed and produced entirely by Jio Creative Labs, using the agency’s in-house facilities," informs a source. These were all project-based assignments.
Moreover, Jio Creative Labs has also undertaken social media mandates, on retainer, for brands like Helo and Balaji Wafers and is in conversation with several others.
"Going forward, the Ambanis want Jio Creative Labs to position itself as an end to end delivery organisation which includes mainline and digital services, branded content solutions, influencer marketing services, and in-house production and post-production services," says the source.
It is worth mentioning here that in-house agencies do not always succeed in winning the trust of other brands. "See, brand marketers will always feel that the agency is busy servicing its parent company which is so huge. Imagine… the agency is working on an ad for a brand and in the meantime, it has to do crisis management for Jio; it would obviously devote all its resources to servicing its parent brand, as a matter of priority, which is why there will be trust deficit," says a senior industry analyst on the condition of anonymity.
Now it remains to be seen if Jio Creative Labs is able to win this elusive trust and re-create the famed and storied Mudra magic.